Let me begin by wishing you all a safe and happy new year! This is a time to review the past and prepare for the future. With that in mind, here’s a column that first ran in the Seattle Times two years ago:
Dusted Valley joined the Walla Walla winery stampede early in this new century. At first they were just another recently-arrived newcomer – two young couples who’d met at the University of Wisconsin, where they individually studied Food Science and Tourism & Hospitality.
The wine blogs this week are loaded with generally interesting, often challenging lists of things that need to go away (http://steveheimoff.com), things that should be encouraged, things you should own, things you should do, etc.
Over the holiday I’ve continued tasting new releases, wrapping up a lot of new wines from Oregon in particular. I continue to be convinced that the 2007 vintage was not universally a write-off for pinot noir – some vintners made very good wines. But 2008 is stellar for white wines, virtually without exception.
To paraphrase an old Rod Stewart song: every bottle tells a story, don’t it? At least, the best bottles have stories to tell. And once they’ve been acquired, stored, perhaps forgotten and ultimately rediscovered, they have a power akin to a great old song that you haven’t heard in years. They take you back to a different place and time, while riveting your attention on the moment – and pleasures – at hand.
We choose wines in many ways, to satisfy different needs, goals, and occasions. Where will the wine be opened? Who will be drinking it? Is it designed to impress, to entertain, to mystify, or simply to disappear into a sidekick role? It's common to write about special occasion wines – wines for weddings, for parties, for holidays, or wines to match certain foods and meals. But what about desire wines?
Auxerrois seems to be a grape that only a true geek can name, let alone love. A bit of auxerrois is made up in British Columbia, and there are a couple of wineries in Michigan that are also trying the grape. But I don’t know of any other domestic versions other than Adelsheim.
A number of lists naming the year's best blogs have been showing up – the blogosphere is nothing if not opinionated – and a number of traits seem to link them. There is no particular manual or roadmap for wine blogging, which is part of its appeal.
Continuing yesterday’s interview with grower Andy Beckstoffer. Much of the discussion centered around a half dozen wines he’d brought to showcase several of his vineyards. None of these wines are inexpensive, and Beckstoffer was upfront about the purpose of his visit.
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down one-on-one with grower Andy Beckstoffer. His accomplishments and accolades would fill this blog many times over. I will direct you to the excellent bio on his website for full details.
As he and I had (rather improbably) never met – though between us we’ve been involved in the wine business for, oh, around 6000 years – I let him set the topics.
ITEM: Wine & Spirits Daily reports that Washington state senator Tim Sheldon believes the state should privatize liquor stores and save at least $53 million a year. “The taxation would still be collected by the state, the regulation would be made by the state,” said Tim Sheldon on a local radio show.
An organization called the Marin Institute, which labels itself an “alcohol industry watchdog” has put out a report that aims to debunk “the myth of the California family winery.” Grandstanding on the steps of the Wine Institute in San Francisco, which it “symbolically” renamed the Big Alcohol Institute, Marin’s report pointed out that “In fact, 7 California wine corporations own 82 percent of the wine sold in the U.S., and 6 of them are global conglomerates who, together with the Wine Institute, work to defeat critical public health policies.”
Nothing warms the cold cruel heart of a wine reviewer more than making an unexpected discovery. Out of the hundreds of wines that arrive unheralded into my locker, hoping to be tasted, favorably reviewed, and written about, once in a blue moon something leaps out and really rings my bell.
I am the designated Wine Enthusiast reviewer for both Washington and Oregon. The wines and wineries of those two states are always on my priority tasting list. And this month, Oregon wines have been in the spotlight.
As a longtime advocate for innovative and eco-friendly wine packaging, I received the yellow+blue and Elkan offerings (pictured above) with considerable interest.
Elkan (a play on el can?) is a lineup of Chilean wines packaged in aluminum cans. “Perfect any place glass is not allowed or not convenient” says the promotional material. And it goes on to extol the virtues of aluminum, which weighs less than glass and claims to be infinitely re-cyclable.
So far, so good. The wines come in four-paks, each can the equivalent of a half bottle of wine, with a suggested retail of around $3.50/can. I tasted four of the six offerings, which include sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, rosé of cabernet, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and carmenère.
I give the wines high marks for innovative packaging, which may conceivably bring new, can-friendly consumers into the wine fold. Eco-benefits, if they are as claimed, are an added plus. But there is one big drawback. The taste of aluminum. Most of us are happy to drink soft drinks and beer out of cans, because that metallic flavor is masked. For me, the Elkan wines did the opposite. They picked it up. I found myself seeking the wine flavors around the can flavors. I wanted to recommend them. But no can do.
Two nights in a row now I’ve chosen a much-anticipated bottle of wine from my cellar to enjoy with dinner, and the wine has been corked. Last night it was a William Fevre 2002 Montmains Premier Cru Chablis. A bottle lovingly nurtured for some years, only to be dumped down the drain. I had a second bottle, which was in fine shape, and as I was consoling myself with it I found myself dreaming up the Top 10 Wine Disappointments.
It’s all too common for advice on wine appreciation to tilt to one extreme or the other. Either you geek out, get various wine-related degrees, collect the ultimate cult wines, have a 10,000 bottle cellar and can identify blind the 1947 Mouton – OR – you “drink what you like.”
Wine Enthusiast magazine’s final issue of the year is out, and features the magazine’s Top 100 wines of 2009. Pictured on the cover are the #1 wine – a 2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir; the #5 wine – Champagne Henriot NV Souverain Brut; and the #8 wine – Poet’s Leap 2007 Riesling. In the introduction to the full list, the magazine’s tasting director Joe Czerwinski writes: